Open municipal solid waste (MSW)-burning is a major source of particulate matter emissions in developing world cities. Despite a legal ban, MSW-burning is observed ubiquitously in Indian cities with little being known about the factors shaping it. This study seeks to uncover social and infrastructural factors that affect MSW-burning at the neighborhood level. We couple physical assessments of the infrastructure provision and the MSW-burning incidences in three different neighborhoods of varying socio-economic status in Delhi, with an accompanying study of the social actors (interviews of waste handlers and households) to explore the extent to which, and potential reasons why, MSW-burning occurs. The observed differences in MSW-burning incidences range from 130 km-2 day-1 in low-income to 30 km-2 day-1 in the high-income areas. However, two high-income areas neighborhoods with functional infrastructure service also showed statistical differences in MSW-burning incidences. Our interviews revealed that, while the waste handlers were aware of the health risks associated with MSW-burning, it was not a high priority in the context of the other difficulties they faced. The awareness of the legal ban on MSW-burning was low among both waste handlers and households. In addition to providing infrastructure for waste pickup, informal restrictions from residents and neighborhood associations can play a significant role in restricting MSW-burning at the neighborhood scale. A more efficient management of MSW requires a combined effort that involves interplay of both social and infrastructural systems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Environmental Engineering
- Municipal solid waste (MSW)-burning
- air pollution
- qualitative research
- social actors
- urban waste management